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Meet Ophelia the Cosmic Collider, a ‘48 Chevy Skoolie Turned Home and Icon
You should always follow your heart when it urges you to try out something new, especially if said experience pushes you out of your comfort zone. That’s the motto of Ryan Lovelace, a surfboard craftsman from California who also happens to be one of the last shapers in the industry, and the builder of the iconic Cosmic Collider.

Meet Ophelia the Cosmic Collider, a ‘48 Chevy Skoolie Turned Home and Icon

Ophelia the Cosmic Collider is a frankenbus made of a '48 Chevy skoolie, with a VW roof and a handmade loftOphelia the Cosmic Collider is a frankenbus made of a '48 Chevy skoolie, with a VW roof and a handmade loftOphelia the Cosmic Collider is a frankenbus made of a '48 Chevy skoolie, with a VW roof and a handmade loftOphelia the Cosmic Collider is a frankenbus made of a '48 Chevy skoolie, with a VW roof and a handmade loftOphelia the Cosmic Collider is a frankenbus made of a '48 Chevy skoolie, with a VW roof and a handmade loftOphelia the Cosmic Collider is a frankenbus made of a '48 Chevy skoolie, with a VW roof and a handmade loftOphelia the Cosmic Collider is a frankenbus made of a '48 Chevy skoolie, with a VW roof and a handmade loftOphelia the Cosmic Collider is a frankenbus made of a '48 Chevy skoolie, with a VW roof and a handmade loftOphelia the Cosmic Collider is a frankenbus made of a '48 Chevy skoolie, with a VW roof and a handmade loftOphelia the Cosmic Collider is a frankenbus made of a '48 Chevy skoolie, with a VW roof and a handmade loftOphelia the Cosmic Collider is a frankenbus made of a '48 Chevy skoolie, with a VW roof and a handmade loftOphelia the Cosmic Collider is a frankenbus made of a '48 Chevy skoolie, with a VW roof and a handmade loftOphelia the Cosmic Collider is a frankenbus made of a '48 Chevy skoolie, with a VW roof and a handmade loftOphelia the Cosmic Collider is a frankenbus made of a '48 Chevy skoolie, with a VW roof and a handmade loftOphelia the Cosmic Collider is a frankenbus made of a '48 Chevy skoolie, with a VW roof and a handmade loftOphelia the Cosmic Collider is a frankenbus made of a '48 Chevy skoolie, with a VW roof and a handmade loftOphelia the Cosmic Collider is a frankenbus made of a '48 Chevy skoolie, with a VW roof and a handmade loftOphelia the Cosmic Collider is a frankenbus made of a '48 Chevy skoolie, with a VW roof and a handmade loftOphelia the Cosmic Collider is a frankenbus made of a '48 Chevy skoolie, with a VW roof and a handmade loftOphelia the Cosmic Collider is a frankenbus made of a '48 Chevy skoolie, with a VW roof and a handmade loftOphelia the Cosmic Collider is a frankenbus made of a '48 Chevy skoolie, with a VW roof and a handmade loftOphelia the Cosmic Collider is a frankenbus made of a '48 Chevy skoolie, with a VW roof and a handmade loftOphelia the Cosmic Collider is a frankenbus made of a '48 Chevy skoolie, with a VW roof and a handmade loftOphelia the Cosmic Collider is a frankenbus made of a '48 Chevy skoolie, with a VW roof and a handmade loftOphelia the Cosmic Collider is a frankenbus made of a '48 Chevy skoolie, with a VW roof and a handmade loftOphelia the Cosmic Collider is a frankenbus made of a '48 Chevy skoolie, with a VW roof and a handmade loftOphelia the Cosmic Collider is a frankenbus made of a '48 Chevy skoolie, with a VW roof and a handmade loft
The Cosmic Collider, or Ophelia the Cosmic Collider by its full name, is a gorgeous skoolie conversion slash frankenbus that started out as a 1948 Chevrolet bus that was then turned into an RV, a tiny home, and a Californian icon, in this exact order. Ophelia is still very much around, though it doesn’t do much driving these days – you will have to excuse an old lady when it comes to planning for long treks, even if it’s an old lady with a new engine.

The story of Ophelia goes all the way back to the ‘60s, when a group of Deadheads started working on it to convert it into an RV with extra headroom. This was done by adding the roof and windows of a Volkswagen bus right onto the frame of the original Chevy skoolie, extending the floor-to-ceiling height to 8 feet (2.4 meters). However, the 29-foot-long (8.8-meter) Ophelia truly came into its own under Ryan Lovelace’s skilled touch.

Ryan Lovelace might not be a name known internationally, but within the surfer community, he is the closest thing to a living legend. Lovelace is a surfboard craftsman, but not a craftsman of any kind: he is one of the last fully hand-shaped surfboard shapers in the industry, and his custom pieces are widely considered art pieces.

Every once in a while, mostly forced by necessity, Ryan branches out into what he calls extracurricular activities. His first and most famous foray outside surfing was Ophelia, which was also his first proper home. He bought the bus off Craigslist when he was only 24 and, at the time he met his wife (with whom he now lives on a converted house boat they built together, the Island Fox), he’d already been working on the skoolie on and off for several months.

Ophelia was in a bad state then, but it did have the elevated roof and, most importantly, incredible potential. Ryan came up with the idea to add a “loft” to it, which would be attached to the rear of the bus, and be made of steel framing and plywood. In order to complete this stage of the project, Ryan had to learn to weld.

The project saw the couple use mostly reclaimed and / or cheap materials, because they were working on a budget that couldn’t go above $10,000. The final layout of the interior included an L-shaped couch right behind the driver seat, with a wood-burning stove right opposite, a full kitchen and a lounge, and the bedroom in the suspended loft. The styling was hippie chic, with hand-painted floors, throw pillows and mixed fabrics, and a variety of plants sitting on rain gutters that doubled as shelves under the “skylight.”

If you look at Ophelia through today’s tiny-house-colored lenses, you will see that its layout was precisely that of a tiny. The only thing that seemed to be missing was a proper bathroom, but as the vanlifers of today will tell you, you can do without one if you’re ok with public restrooms and gym showers.

Ryan and his wife lived in the conversion for about four years and, in 2018, he decided to part with it, as work on the Island Fox was nearing completion. He listed Ophelia for $18,200 OBO, but in the end, decided against selling it; he’d already made it clear that he would only sell to someone who could guarantee restoration, so that the skoolie would live on to see the road again, so maybe that played a part in the decision.

Instead, Ryan gave Ophelia the Cosmic Collider to occasional collaborator Old Pal, a local cannabis company. They put in a new motor and transmission, and handed it over to Home Made Modern, with the seemingly-impossible task of turning it into a pop-up shop for Coachella in just three days. The renovation is detailed in the video below, and included adding a rear deck, removing the kitchen and the lounge to include woodbench seating and shelving, patching up holes, and reinforcing the existing structure. Of course, most of the interior got a good cleaning and a new coat of paint, and the fabrics were all replaced. Even the rain-gutter shelves were reinforced, and plants were hung up again.

The idea of the restoration was to keep Ophelia as original as possible, while turning it into a safe space for display purposes and visitors. Old Pal put their name on the skoolie conversion, but it’s still named Ophelia the Cosmic Collider, and it still causes a frenzy whenever it’s spotted on the road or at various events. A true California celebrity.



Editor's note: This article was not sponsored or supported by a third-party.

 
 
 
 
 

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